Single page view By Jim Caple
Page 2

Archibald "Moonlight" Graham made his one and only major-league appearance 100 years ago today, playing briefly in the Giants' outfield as a defensive replacement without getting a plate appearance. There are several such players in the Baseball Encyclopedia – no at-bats, no walks, no runs, no sacrifices, no batting average – but Graham is the only one who wound up being played by Burt Lancaster in a movie.

Graham did become a doctor in Chisholm, Minn., as depicted in "Field of Dreams," but there is so much we don't know about his baseball career. The only newspaper accounts from that day mention that he went in to play right field. Was a ball hit to him? Why did he never get into another game? And most importantly, how did a player who never batted get a nickname?

Things would have been much different, however, had Graham made his debut 100 years later than he did. Had he instead appeared for the Giants on June 29, 2005, the media would already have fully chronicled his life story:

May, 2000: Baseball America ranks Graham as the 27th best high school prospect in the country. "Graham is a confident, five-tool player who hit .478 with 13 home runs this season for Chisholm high school. His signability is an issue, though. Agent Scott Boras is 'advising' the family and will use a scholarship offer from the University of Minnesota medical school to drive up Graham's signing bonus."

June, 2000: Michael Lewis watches Billy Beane on draft day and later writes a chapter of "Moneyball" about the Oakland general manager's decision not to pick Graham in the amateur draft:

"The scouts liked Graham's arm strength, speed, power, good baseball face and high intelligence but Beane saw a potential problem. Thanks to the statistical analysis, he knew what his scouting department did not – that players from Minnesota high schools with a poor walk-to-strikeout ratio not only tended to struggle at the professional level, they showed a heavy inclination to quit early, enter medical school and become doctors in small towns. 'You can't rely on these guys,' Beane shouted at his scouts. 'Believe me, if Graham fouls a ball off some fan's head, he'll go into the stands to apply first aid and we'll never see him again. When are you guys going to get it? We're drafting players, not lab coats. I'm sorry – we're picking Rich Harden instead.'"

June, 2000: Philadelphia drafts Graham in the second round but runs into contract issues when Boras demands a $10 million package for his client. "Archie doesn't need the Phillies and he doesn't need major-league baseball," the agent says. "He's quite content to travel around Minnesota playing for amateur town teams who arrange jobs for him in the local factories."

August, 2000: Graham is fired from his afternoon job at the Chisholm Wal-Mart when Boras insists that the company pay his client more than $5.10 per hour, provide adequate health coverage and allow him to form a union.

June, 2001: After Philadelphia's rights to Graham expire, the Giants pick him in the 2001 draft and sign him to a $4.8 million contract. When reporters ask him for his career goal, he replied, "Just once, I would like the chance to play in a major-league game and squint into a sky so blue that it hurts my eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in my arm as I connect with the ball. To run the bases and turn a double into a triple, and flop face-down into third with my arms around the bag. That's all. To feel that once, even if it was only for five minutes, would be enough for me."


Page 1 of 3Next>>         Single page view